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The Daily Grist: March 10

Out With the Old Growth, in With the Nu
Nu River Dam Threatens Unique Chinese Ecosystem

A massive dam project planned for the Nu River in southwestern China
threatens to wreak havoc on a region that contains one of the world's least-disturbed temperate ecosystems. The area, designated by the U.N. as a World Heritage Site, contains old-growth forests, 7,000 species of plants, and 80 rare or endangered animal species -- all told, a fourth of China's indigenous plant species and half of its native animal species. While no one expects to be able to stop the project, it has become a focus of China's nascent environmental movement, with private enviro groups, the State Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences speaking out in an effort to push the project in a more eco-friendly direction. While not as internationally controversial as the Three Gorges Dam, the Nu River project is part of the same drive to develop western China's energy resources to fuel the relentless economic boom in the east, a drive many claim is harming politically powerless peasants. Provincial official Wu Fan expressed little sympathy: "If it were not for the founding of the People's Republic, these people would still be living a primitive way of life, like monkeys or ape-men."

Green Card
New Scorecard Measures Sustainability Progress in Northwest

Nightly newscasts report on the stock market and the GDP. But do these common measures really tell us how society is faring? Northwest Environment Watch, a Seattle-based think tank, doesn't think so. Today it released its
first annual Cascadia Scorecard, intended as a better assessment of the overall well-being of the Pacific Northwest (Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia). On four of six measures, the region is improving: protecting and managing forests, containing sprawl, lowering birth rates, and improving life expectancy. On the other two -- economic security and energy efficiency -- little progress is being made. "There's an old adage in business that what gets measured gets fixed," said NEW's Clark Williams-Derry. The report is intended to help the region build "a way of life that can last, where the human economy is reconciled with the natural systems that support it -- where people are doing fine and nature is, too," he said.

The Wind Also Rises
Wind Power Keeps on Growing, Says Report

Wind power has made such inroads that it's no longer "alternative," says an industry report released today. Total world power capacity generated by wind rose by more than a quarter last year, to 39,294 megawatts. The U.S. and Europe together accounted for 88 percent of the total, with Germany alone coming in at 40 percent. Japan and India were cited as countries where wind power is growing. The report criticized the U.S. for allowing a federal tax credit for wind generation to expire at the end of 2003 and called for its renewal. In less hopeful news, a report from the U.K.'s Royal Academy of Engineering today concluded that energy from offshore wind farms will cost
almost twice as much per MW as that from traditional sources -- in particular, from gas and nuclear power plants. The British Wind Energy Association called the report a bunch of hooey.

PR You Serious?
Forest Service Hired PR Firm to Sell Logging Plan

Remember that controversial U.S. Forest Service plan unveiled in January that aims to triple commercial logging in California's Sierra Nevada mountains? The one they said would "protect small communities" and create "forests with a future"? The one that critics said flew in the face of wide scientific consensus on the best ways to reduce wildfire hazards? Turns out the USFS
hired a public-relations firm -- OneWorld Communications, to the tune of some $90,000 -- to help it sell the plan to a skeptical public. A leaked memo from OneWorld encouraged USFS officials to keep their unprecedented move a secret, since "perception is king" and "members of the public who are not professionals in public relations and marketing might misinterpret certain ideas or concepts" in the PR plan. As we here at Grist are not PR professionals, we'll leave the interpreting to readers.

For more environmental news and humor go to Grist Magazine

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